Life in the City of Angels: Blue Room

Seemingly unconscious of my presences there is a moment between silence and mid-note that my lens captures Randy’s silhouette. He rehearses, then pauses to contemplate a melodic and rhythmic pattern – as he continues to rehearse Randy fills the room with waves of invisible sentiment. To the ear its blues, cool, romantic and yet a feeling of expressing pensive sadness. The rehearsal room tuns blue.

Crossing Borders: Okie Dokies and In-Gadda-Da-Vida

Cue The Camels, Chapter 6: Rucksack Essentials: La Musica

The passenger window is tinted yellow from years of cigarette smoke with a vertical crack in the shape of lighting running down the middle of the pane. The crack was probably formed either in the sport of shadow boxing or someone was having a really bad day of  frustration. The window is stuck midway up allowing for a blast of hot air with the familiar smells of diesel and earth filling the cab. I am in a good stare as the terrain charges by wondering which biblical figures walked here and which battles from the Old Testament were fought. But it is difficult to ponder these questions when my Israeli driver Ya’akov’s radio and cassette player screams with Anthony Newley’s torch song “What Kind of Fool am I.“ With both hands on the wheel and the ever present Marlboro dangling from his lips, Ya’akov belts out the song over-enunciating each lyric in his karaoke sing-along. Ya'akov-Driving-Sepia-Blog

What’s in a name? Everything apparently, Ya’akov  for us none Jews  “Jacob” literally means heel-catcher or supplanter- a person who “lies in wait” for a situation to develop in order to take advantage of it. In Genesis of the Old Testament,  Ya’akov is described as the person who wrestles with a mysterious man who turns out to be God Himself. That account perfectly describes the man sitting next to me singing off-key with Anthony Newley. A man of small stature, Ya’akov is  built like a brick house with hands like baseball gloves. His eyes are blue and clear in spite of all that he has seen and experienced.  But it is also through these eyes that Ya’akov is constantly searching the horizon for opportunities. For some, pop music is the demise of western civilization but for Ya’akov it was a blessing.Ya’akov embraced western pop music by teaching himself English off of Billboard’s Hot 100 music chart. That is why he strains so hard to pronounce each lyric. His accent is definitely Israeli but it switches to a bad Elvis impersonation when he curses out loud as the undercarriage of his truck scrapes the limestone rocks in the road. He still has difficulty with slang,  like walkie talkies which we use on location. Ya’akov consistently would call the walkie talkies “okie dokies”. For the benefit of Ya’akov I have also taken to calling them  “okie dokies” .Ya'akov-&-Okie-Dokie-Blog 

A veteran of the Six-Day war, Ya’akov has witnessed Israel’s history from the front-lines. At the end of the war he applied his  military skills and knowledge of the back roads of Israel as a driver and guide for news and documentary crews. Ya’akov also has a side business of selling cartons of Marlboro cigarettes and Fanta Orange sodas to the Bediouns that camp in the Judaean Wilderness. Ya'akov-and-me-Sepia-Blog

Somewhere on an old dirt road off  Highway 79 near Nazareth in Northern Israel. Ya’akov maneuvers around bombshell-size potholes in his mini truck which is full of camera gear and is swaying almost rhythmically to the music from his cassette player. The goal is to find a location to film in the Israeli outback without power lines or any evidence of the 21th century. Ya’akov finds a good location to shoot from, pulls over and true to our tradition he proceeds to make us coffee on a small backpack stove. With the strong aroma of coffee filling the air we sit on the back tailgate sipping the black brew smoking cigarettes.

“Ya’akov” I said,

“Yes Da’vid” Ya’akov replies.

“How about another song?” I ask.

Without blinking Ya’akov jumps up and walks to the middle of the scarres and battered road and bellows out,“In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, honey don’t you know that I love you? In-a-gadda-da-vida, baby Don’t you know that I’ll always be true?” As he

Jesus, Iron Butterfly, I think to myself, the song came out in May of 1968, right after the dust settled from the Six-Day War a perfect time for Ya’akov to start learning English. As the sunsets and Ya’akov keeps rolling out the hits, there is nowhere I’d rather be. “Hey, Ya’akov hand me your  okie dokies, I’ll change the batteries for you. “

Cue-The-CamelsCue The Camels available at: www.cuethecamels.com, www.oodlebooks.com,  Also available at: Vromans Bookstore in Pasadena, California www.vromansbookstore.com/book/9780957438385, and Book Soup in Hollywood, California,  booksoup.com/book/9780957438385 

Studio A, Capital Records in Black and White

Special Thanks To:

  • Leader/Bass: Rickey Minor
  • Saxophone: Randolph Ellis, Miguel Gandelman, Ernie Fields, Jr.
  • Trumpet: Raymond Monteiro
  • Trombone: Garrett Smith
  • Keyboard: J. Wayne Linsey, David Delhomme
  • Guitar: Paul Jackson, Jr.
  • Drums: Teddy Campbell
  • Percussion: Kevin Ricard
  • Vocals: Dorian Holley

Random Thoughts: Perception is Reality

Dave MeschivesBesides me are my two pups, Frankie Doodle and Oggi Doggie. We are warm and comfortable sitting on the sofa  this early November morning. As I drink my coffee in the background the music of Ray Davies and The Kinks is playing, This Time Tomorrow. It only seems appropriate since we have had five deaths in the family since February. I am wondering with great anticipation and anxiety what will be This Time Tomorrow. I can’t wait for 2014 to over with. Not to be a downer but there has been personal discoveries, evolutions and revolutions for the last nine months as I wait for the next revelation.
What is it they say, “Perception is Reality.”  What seemed so important at the time of my youth was working at ABC Television Network in Hollywood, California.I had it made it to the top of my game in the entertainment business with power, money and prestige. It is also where I grew up, matured and honed my production skills and that was my perception of the world. When I left ABC Network I wanted more and I must say, I got it! I covered the war in Afghanistan as a solo journalist, civil strife in LA and the intifada in the Holy City of Jerusalem. My “Perception of Reality” has changed radically since those ABC days. I have seen death, betrayal and hopelessness in the world as the illusion of Hollywood was left behind. But I still hold on to my belief that deep in the souls of humanity we are one – in spite of political or religious differences. Like Ray Davies is singing now, ” Leave the sun behind me, and watch the clouds as they sadly pass me by,  and I’m perpetual motion and the world below doesn’t matter much to me, this time tomorrow where will we be.” I can only hope and pray.
My coffee is getting cold and Frankie and Oggi are restless and music has changed from the Kinks to the Mamas and Papas song, California Dreaming. For a kid from Oklahoma with a high school education I have lived my California Dream and for that I’m grateful for the journey I have had. Let’s see what tomorrow will bring and what old perceptions will change.

Cue The Camels, Chapter 5: Jerusalem Bed Sheets:

“I’m not hopeful – either for peace in the Middle East or for peace in the Holy Sepulcher,”– Father Jerome Murphy O’Connor is a professor at the Ecole Biblique in Jerusalem

In old city of Jerusalem, the Holy Sepulcher belonged to five different Christian groups: the Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholics (Franciscans), Armenians, Coptics, and Ethiopians. This makes for complicated arrangements; disputes are common, particularly over who has the authority to carry out repairs. There’s a wooden ladder on a ledge just above the main entrance that’s been left there since the nineteenth century, because no one can agree who has the right to take it down. It’s not unusual to see fights between monks from different sects in the Sepulchre. Passions run high, particularly on important holy days. All it takes is a monk in the wrong place at the wrong time in a religious procession and it’s SmackDown. Fists fly, holy water’s thrown, beards pulled and even candlesticks used to ram groups of opposing monks. Peace on this Holy holiday whatever your belief.  

Jay Leno says, “Within these pages Dave has written gung-ho, self-deprecating, wildly engaging accounts of his exploits, with all the behind-the-scene high-jinks that go into shooting news and documentaries across the world.” In Cue the Camels, Dave shares his misadventures in a comedic style that is sure to entertain.

Vroman’s Bookstore Link: http://www.vromansbookstore.com/local629

 Cue The Camels available atwww.cuethecamels.com, www.oodlebooks.com,  Also available at: Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena, California www.vromansbookstore.com/book/9780957438385, , Book Soup in Hollywood, California,  booksoup.com/book/9780957438385 , Amazon Kindle Edition: http://www.amazon.com/Cue-Camels-three-time-award-winning-film-maker-ebook/dp/B00IA10Z88/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1403461103&sr=1-1&keywords=cue+the+camels

 

It’s A Potpourri of Images!

Link: http://instagram.com/davebanksimages

Screen Shot 2014-07-02 at 9.37.39 PM

 

Dog Biscuit, Once in a Lifetime and David Byrnes

 

Excerpt from Cue The Camels, Chapter Eight, Dog Biscuit and Noah’s Ark Cue-The-Camels

We waited another half an hour after the Turkish patrol had disappeared out of sight before we hauled ass off the apron of Mt. Ararat and on to flat ground. My knees were shot and my feet were thrashed. We crossed numerous gullies, sliding down their drops then trudging back up their inclines, which rapidly depleted our Mt.Ararat-On plainremaining energy reserves. 

Stumbling forward, my boots scraped against the rolling rocks as I repeatedly stabbed with the ski poles for an opening between the rocks to right myself. The flare must have burned out because it became dark again. I faltered a number of times but kept an eye on my fellow climbers Cronuck and Stublich and watched them move at a steady pace towards the faint yellow and white lights of Doğubayazıt on the horizon – which I affectionately call Dog Biscuit

My feet felt warm and soggy which was a sure sign of blood. 

Mt.Ararat-2nd paragraph-BlogIt was at this point – stemming from many things, such as dehydration and sheer exhaustion – that I fell into mild delirium and David Byrnes of Talking Heads became my chaperones. 

‘And you may find yourself in another part of the world. And you may ask yourself: well, how did I get here?’

‘You know, David, you’re holding me hostage with that broken record. I mean, I can appreciate your words but after a while it gets a little old. Know what I mean?’

I didn’t get a straight answer from David; instead, he gave me his advice. ‘The sound of gunfire, off in the distance, I’m getting used to it now…’

                 At that moment, a second flare burst in the night sky. It was a couple of seconds later that we heard the low boom of the flare gun, which meant there was a good distance between us and the Turkish military. I made it to the edge of the stone field; Cornuke and Stublich stopped long enough to ask me if I was okay. My lips were cracked, my tongue was swollen and all my saliva had evaporated. I could only answer with a nod and a whisper: ‘I’m okay.’

Ahead, I could hear Dick slapping the iridium satellite phone repeatedly, trying to get enough charge out of the dead battery to make a call to Micah, our Kurdish fixer, so that he could meet us at the predetermined rendezvous point.

George grumbled. ‘This is fucking stupid. Let’s go to the main highway and catch a ride to town.’

Mt. Ararat  3rd Paragraph Sepia-BlogDick stopped smacking the sat-phone and directed all his attention towards George. ‘Shut the fuck up, George. The Turkish military use that road all the time. What do you think they’ll assume if they come across us on that highway with all our gear?’

George didn’t listen and relentlessly argued his point as the sound of the dogs’ howls grew louder. There was a gunshot in the distance followed by the hiss of another parachute flare. That was all the motivation we needed; the five of us turned and hauled ourselves across the plain. David followed nearby. ‘We make a pretty good team. Don’t get exhausted; I’ll do some driving. You ought to get some sleep.’Mt.Ararat-003-Blog copy

‘You know, David, it must be Mercury in retrograde with all the hurdles we’ve had to clear,’ I muttered.

There was no response.

We’d been tramping about in the darkness for hours and we were spent, physically and emotionally. We walked on autopilot, using the light of Dog Biscuit as our beacon.

‘You know, David, I could’ve stayed in L.A. picking up work shooting a mindless sitcom and watching a celebrity with two soft, protruding organs give us the local weather report. I could have, but I wouldn’t have had this wonderful field trip to remember. Know what I mean?’

David paused then caught up with me. ‘You may ask yourself: well, how did I get here? You may ask yourself: where does that highway lead to? You may ask yourself: am I right; am I wrong? You may say to yourself: my God, what have I done?’

Cue The Camels available at: www.cuethecamels.com, www.oodlebooks.com,  Also available at: Vromans Bookstore in Pasadena, California www.vromansbookstore.com/book/9780957438385, and Book Soup in Hollywood, California,  booksoup.com/book/9780957438385

Cue The Camels: Jimi Hendrix, Osama bin Laden & Moving Penises

Link to Jimi’s All Along The Watchtower on YouTube: https://youtu.be/TLV4_xaYynY?list=PLjts4JMIwgQxcEwLBmDvkRE2Hx3QHGUU3

Chapter Two, Al Minya, Bed Bugs and Sex

Jimi Hendrix’s version of ‘All Along the Watchtower’ was blasting out from Mark Hufnail’s BMW stereo, fueling our adrenalin and chest-beating machismo. During Jimi’s solos, I strummed the invisible strings of my air guitar and glanced over at Mark, catching him head-banging to the beat. Two middle-aged white guys, reminiscing about hippie living and experimental drug days, we were now living on the highs adventure brought. Potential ‘fixes’ dangled from the grueling schedule before us to shoot three documentaries throughout Middle Egypt, along the Nile. All three documentaries to be shot simultaneously in sixteen days, to produce seven hours of programming.
Body Guard-13

With some security concerns, we drove from Mark’s Burbank office to a kosher Italian restaurant on the west side of Los Angeles, this was our last advisory meeting about security with the only Muslim we knew, Attallah Shabazz. Ms. Shabazz is the eldest daughter of El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, better known as Malcolm X, the powerful civil rights activist of the ‘60s. Mark and Attallah have worked together on several television productions and have become very good friends over the years, to the point that Mark’s daughter, Megan, refers to Ms. Shabazz as ‘Aunty Attallah’. Mark set the stage to our trip, telling Attallah that we would be the first American crew to travel by vehicle through Middle Egypt in ten years, that according to our fixer in Egypt. Our security was our foremost concern; we’d be two unmistakably-American white guys shooting at various locations along the Nile. When we went into preproduction for the three documentaries – on February 23, 1998 – Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, a leader of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, along with three other Islamist leaders, co-signed and issued a ‘fatwa’. This called on Muslims to kill Americans and their allies, saying it was their duty. The declaration was made seven months prior to our scheduled departure to Egypt. I’d also read somewhere that Osama and Zawahiri hated Americans so much that they wouldn’t even drink a Pepsi. On top of all that, there was rumored to be a bounty of $16,000 for every American’s head in Egypt. I found this a bit insulting: why couldn’t they round it out? I thought I was worth at least $20,000.

Attallah interrupted Mark. ‘You know, I don’t thing you have anything to worry about, traveling through Middle Egypt,’ she reassured us. ‘The Egyptian government cannot afford another massacre, it would be devastating to their economy. You will Dave on location #2-2be well protected. Think of it as an adventure, don’t let the threat of a small group of extremists hold you hostage.’

We placed our orders for our meal and our conversation turned to shop talk and a bucket full of scuttlebutt. It’s traditional amongst our staff and crew to collect the best pithy quotes during production which we then use as a catchphrase during shooting when things get a little too heated. Over our kosher pasta with meatless sauce, we told Attallah that we’d collected three favorite quotes for the History Channel’s documentary, the ‘History of Sex’:

‘Does the composer actually see the show he’s composing?’

‘Regardless of their academic achievement and expertise, try not to use any male or female archeologist over forty years of age’.

imagesBut the killer quote, and my favorite when shooting ancient Egyptian statues, was: ‘You can shoot as Dave-Desertmany penises as you want, as long as they don’t move’.

“There must be some way out of here,” said the joker to the thief,
“There’s too much confusion, I can’t get no relief.
Businessmen, they drink my wine, plowmen dig my earth,
None of them along the line know what any of it is worth.”

–  Bob Dylan, 1967

Cue The Camels available at: www.cuethecamels.com, www.oodlebooks.com,  Also available at: Vromans Bookstore in Pasadena, California www.vromansbookstore.com/book/9780957438385, and Book Soup in Hollywood, California,  booksoup.com/book/9780957438385

Rucksack Essentials: La Musica, Kabul Afghanistan

Cue The Camels, Chapter Six

It’s not that I’m a snob about music but any world traveler will tell you that one of the most essential items in your rucksack is your music. My choice of tunes has become the soundtrack for many of my journeys, often saving my sanity. I can attest that there is nothing better then listening to your iPod on a transatlantic flight, it evokes a wonderful state of being that takes you away from the crying babies and exasperated mothers. Music has protected me from exasperation when Egyptian wedding parties have still been going strong at two o’clock in the morning, as well as helping me pass days (not hours) while once waiting for a flight out of Kabul.

For me, Justin Bieber’s mindless pop just doesn’t lend itself to the experience of tearing across sun-bleached sands in the Sahara desert in a Toyota Land Cruiser. The Clash’s ‘Rock the Casbah’, however, does a terrific job and always sets the mood.

Kabul 1-1In Kabul, Afghanistan, I spent an afternoon eating lunch that had been cooked on the sidewalk, in front of a carpet store on Chicken Street. The owner and his son stayed and had lunch with me so that they could practice their English. When Kabul was under Taliban control, paper bags, white socks, kite-flying and music were forbidden. This was serious oppression; for instance, possession of a paper bag constituted the death penalty. If they viewed that so severely, imagine what they’d have done if a flash mob broke out to Survivor’s ‘Eye of the Tiger’ – the Taliban would have nuked all of Chicken Street.

To celebrate my host’s and his son’s newfound freedom we played ‘Jump Around’ by House of Pain on his chrome-trimmed ghetto blaster that he’d kept hidden from the Taliban. It must have been very amusing for the ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) troops to see a couple of Afghans and one big white guy jumping to the beat of the music in front of the old carpet store. To this day, when I hear ‘Jump Around’ I can smell the pilaf cooking, feel the heat of the day and, in my mind’s eye, see the physical expression of freedom on the owner’s face and that of his son’s, as they danced with sheer joy.

Cue The Camels available at: www.cuethecamels.com, www.oodlebooks.com,  Also available at: Vromans Bookstore in Pasadena, California www.vromansbookstore.com/book/9780957438385, and Book Soup in Hollywood, California,  booksoup.com/book/9780957438385

Cue The Camels, Chapter 6: Rucksack Essentials: La Musica

Revised_cuethecamel_bookcover-Di

Music is a safe kind of high – Jimi Hendrix

In Kabul, Afghanistan, I spent an afternoon eating lunch that had been cooked on the sidewalk, in front of a carpet store on Chicken Street. The owner and his son stayed and had lunch with me so that they could practice their English. When Kabul was under Taliban control, paper bags, white socks, kite-flying and music were forbidden. Whitewater WestThis was serious oppression; for instance, possession of a paper bag constituted the death penalty. If they viewed that so severely, imagine what they’d have done if a flash mob broke out to Survivor’s ‘Eye of the Tiger’ – the Taliban would have nuked all of Chicken Street. To celebrate my host’s and his son’s newfound freedom we played ‘Jump Around’ by House of Pain on his chrome-trimmed ghetto blaster that he’d kept hidden from the Taliban. It must have been very amusing for theISAF (International Security Assistance Force) troops to see a couple of Afghans and one big white guy jumping to the beat of the music in front of the old carpet store. To this day, when I hear ‘Jump Around’ I can smell the pilaf cooking, feel the heat of the day and, in my mind’s eye, see the physical expression of freedom on the owner’s face and that of his son’s, as they danced with sheer joy.

Cue The Camels available at : www.oodlebooks.com & www.cuethecamels.com

Kabul 1-1

With a full tummy and the joy of listening to music, all is right with the world, now it’s nap time.

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